Round 6 of the Maxxis British Motocross championship was an agonizing affair for Hitachi ASA KTM UK as both Graeme Irwin (MX1) and Conrad Mewse (MX2) had to deal with pain for gain in differing ways at the Shropshire circuit. For Michael Ellis in MX2, it was also another strong showing.
For Irwin in MX1, the luckless reigning champion entered the event with a bulging disc in his back. For most people, they wouldn’t think about wrestling a KTM 450 SX-F around the demanding Hawkstone track, but the Northern Irishman was nothing short of superhuman.
Qualifying in fifth position, he went on to finish second in the first moto – just 0.8 seconds behind championship leader, Jake Nicholls. In the second moto, the Carrickfergus man once again gritted his teeth and despite spending most of the race in 5th place, climbed up to third on the final lap to finish third overall on the day.
With two rounds to go, Irwin sits third in the championship – 52 points back from leader, Nicholls and just 13 points adrift from Evgeny Bobryshev in second.
Graeme Irwin #1: “I have a bulging disc in my back, and I am in agony. So, I need to go and see a doctor and get it sorted. It’s such a shame because the last few rounds have been going so well, excluding Duns that is, that was a nightmare.
“Today after qualifying I wasn’t even sure if I’d be racing, so in the first race I spent most of it on the pegs, hoping Jake would make a mistake that I could capitalise on because I could not commit to the rough stuff. I had to take my time; push where I could and take my time in other places and just be smooth.
“The second race was just horrible. From the first lap I was in pain, it was a nightmare. I had to take the slower and smoother lines and, in the end, we still weren’t that far off. I honestly think if I was fit this would have been a 1-1, but hey – shoulda woulda coulda!”
In MX2, Mewse was again the class act. Qualifying on pole position on his KTM 250 SX-F, he converted that into a brilliant and dominant first moto victory, taking the win by over 41 seconds from Mel Pocock and lapping with a best time two seconds faster than the opposition.
The second moto was less successful, with Mewse way down the order at the start. Almost dead last, despite a valiant effort to pull back through the order by lapping at top-10 pace, he was forced to retire after lap 5 due to a finger injury that needed medical attention.
Despite the DNF in race 2, the Shepton Mallet youngster secured eighth overall on the day and retains the championship lead by 14 points over Joshua Gilbert with Pocock – who took the overall on the day – just a further point back.
Team Manager, Lee Tolan, said: “Conrad, a win and a DNF. It’s a bit of a knockback for everyone but it’s an eighth overall on the day for him and not a bad result considering he was forced to retire from the second race.
“Michael is progressing yet again. In the first moto the bike wasn’t entirely to his liking, so for the second we made some adjustments and he went out feeling confident and swinging, he was up there at the front for a while before dropping back some places. We are not sure if it was down to fitness or not being used to racing alongside some of those top riders, but it’s another round with clear progression for him; 100% better!”
“Graeme, he’s suffering with a bulging disc, so we didn’t enter this round in the best situation. He went out and qualified P5 which considering the circumstances was okay. We thought he wasn’t going to go out for the first race after that, but he insisted he was going out and look what happened; a second, wow – I couldn’t believe it! I’ll take my hat off to him for that one, the man has got the heart of lion. Out he went again for the second moto, sitting in 5th for the most of it before ending up with a third. What a day! What a guy!”
Photos by Billy Giltrow